CENTRAL OTAGO, MANIOTOTO DISTRICT WHERE TO GO
Ophir, Maniototo district Central Otago is a detour where the 19th century is captured in the streetscape of a town that once had over a thousand inhabitants. Now tourism is the mainstay of the area. The picturesque town, nestled in the tussock country of Central Otago is a glorious snapshot of why we travel. The slow lane exploring culture, heritage and history of an area is a very good reason to stop and savour the colour of spring hollyhocks in Ophir.
BEST TIME TO GO
Year round, although in winter invest in woollen layers and gloves, Check road conditions before departing from the warmth of Dunedin
WHAT TO DO, HIGHLIGHTS
- The Daniel O’Connell bridge is a majestic statement bridge entrance to Ophir. Take a walk from town to obtain intimate views
- Post a letter and get it franked at the Post Office (you will need to check beforehand opening hours)
- Town walk following heritage trail.
- Rose and hollyhock garden fans visit in spring to observe the Ophir Rose in full bloom in local gardens
- Winter hoar frost is a photographer’s dream
For cemetery fans the nearby Drybread cemetery is worth a visit. Graves are over 140 years old with local sheep on mowing duties. The ground is uneven, take care walking.
The instagram famous bridge is one of Central Otago’s few remaining suspension bridges over the Manuherikia River. Built in 1880 and named after Daniel O’Connell, an Irish hero for local Irish Catholic immigrants, the bridge was originally made from wood then rebuilt with prefabricated steel shipped out from the UK. The one-lane bridge has one end extending through solid rock.
Pitches General Grocery store, now a luxury stay accommodation, was the home and business of local notables, Mr and Mrs Pitches. Mrs Pitches, wife of Councillor Pitchers opened the Daniel O’Connor Suspension bridge with a christening ceremony of champagne.
Ophir once had a post office, courthouse, police station, hospital, school, two hotels and two churches. Bypassed by the railway the forgotten settlement’s buildings stand as a testament to the heyday of gold mining.
- Freezing cold in winter, the coldest recorded temperatures in New Zealand with -20c a regular occurrence.
- Picture perfect heritage town
FALLEN IN LOVE
- Stay at Pitches Store: Central Otago Accommodation, Pitches Store provides luxury accommodation – perfect as Otago Central Rail Trail accommodation, a foodie destination, romantic getaways or corporate travelers. The accommodation in Central Otago reflects contemporary luxury combined with hints of its unique 135-year history with six rooms and an onsite restaurant.
WHERE TO TAKE THE BEST SELFIE
- Spoiled for choice from heritage buildings, blooming flowers or crisp winter days
WHAT TO DO WITH THE KIDS
- Offer them a job bridge building, no equipment required, pick and shovel only for minimum wages, example Ophir’s schist bridge
- Write a postcard to Nana (minimum sentence length to be decided by parents) and stamp in heritage post office
- For the hard work while on holiday promise an exciting heritage town walk!
- Taste.Central – A Central Otago Regional Menu, definitely put Ophir on the circuit
- About us Promote Dunstan, Promote Dunstan is a small group of volunteers promoting the area from Earnscleugh and Clyde to the Manuherikia. It is a non-profit incorporated society with members developing and encouraging various activities and events which promote the area to the benefit of residents, businesses, and visitors. Within the group’s area of interest are three of the most authentically preserved and significant gold rush settlements in New Zealand – Ophir, St Bathans and Clyde. The Group is becoming more involved in the identification and preservation of heritage sites and is working alongside other agencies to achieve this by promotion, fund-raising, purchase, and management before these sites are lost to future generations.
- Adore old photographs from the nineteenth century onwards of settlers, gold prospectors then check out Promote Dunstan gallery it is a gem.
- Between 45 – 50 (depending on whose is counting)
WHO TURNED UP AND NAMED THE PLACE?
- Ophir was previously known as Blacks, after Charles Black – a landowner who came good when gold was discovered in his backyard.
- The name of the town was changed to Ophir in 1875 after the biblical land where the Queen of Sheba gave gold to King Solomon.
TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION
The Dunstan: Introduction
The area known as The Dunstan stretches from Clyde into the Manuherikia Valley and was one of New Zealand’s richest gold fields. It was visited by Maori, who camped by rivers in summer and the earliest European settlers were sheep farmers whose runs extended over thousands of hectares. The discovery of gold at Lawrence in 1861 heralded a huge rush as more fields, yielding enormous quantities of gold, were found throughout Central Otago. Thousands of miners were lured here despite the extremely harsh climate and environment.
Many stayed to establish permanent townships on the sites of calico (cloth) settlements. The remains of those places and the scars left by mining operations still can be seen. Clyde, Ophir, and St Bathans are the most authentically preserved and significant gold rush settlements in New Zealand; little remains of many other settlements apart from their names and some ruins. Others have survived with a few permanent residents and old cottages now used as holiday homes. Some old buildings have become part of local farms. Gold prospectors and mining companies still search for gold in the district.
It is an area rich in the early European history of New Zealand.
Source ‘Promote Dunstan’ Social Media page
Unique journeys, personal adventures.